MTRCB hit over plan to regulate Netflix

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
MTRCB hit over plan to regulate Netflix
These were some of the comments given by officials yesterday on the plan of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to regulate content of popular online movie streaming platform Netflix.
Pixabay / Stock

MANILA, Philippines — “Ridiculous” and an “idiot regulation.”

These were some of the comments given by officials yesterday on the plan of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to regulate content of popular online movie streaming platform Netflix.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano called the plan “mind-boggling” and “ridiculous.”

In a post on his Facebook page, Cayetano said the proposal was an example of bureaucratic thinking that gives government workers a bad name.

He said with Filipinos already faced with so many problems, “this is what MTRCB wants to prioritize?”

“What makes this even more mind-boggling is that, in the first place, MTRCB has no jurisdiction over Netflix and other online content,” Cayetano pointed out.

Cayetano believed that such plan goes against the government’s general direction of increasing transparency.

“MTRCB is focused on the outdated mindset of information regulation and censorship. What decade are you in?” he added.

Cayetano said the agency, if it wants to be relevant in this time of pandemic, should focus on improving the entertainment industry which has been lagging behind its neighbors in the region despite so many talented actors, directors and writers.

He vowed to confront MTRCB officials during deliberations of Congress on the 2021 proposed national budget that will start next week.

“Congress will give them a chance to explain how they came up with this ridiculous idea,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. also opposed the plan of MTRCB to regulate content on Netflix and other online streaming services.

“Enough already with idiot regulation. If it’s on Netflix the whole world’s watching the show and it’s tuned to general patronage. Enough already with displaying ignorance. It’s embarrassing,” Locsin said in a post on Twitter on Thursday.

During a hearing of the Senate trade committee on the proposed Internet Transactions Act on Thursday, the MTRCB urged the Senate to craft a policy granting them the authority to regulate online streaming services, including Netflix.

MTRCB chair Rachel Arenas underscored the need to regulate streaming service platforms to ensure that all video platforms operating in the country are complying with Filipino contemporary values.

She said the regulation, if approved, would not be as stringent as what is being done in South Korea.

MTRCB’s legal affairs division chief Jonathan Presquito noted that in South Korea, all contents of Netflix go through prior review.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also opposed the plan of the MTRCB to regulate streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Instead of regulating streaming platforms, MTRCB should continue to allow Netflix and other media to self-regulate content, Drilon said.

“It’s very impractical. There are thousands of shows on Netflix alone – how will MTRCB review each one? Can the MTRCB review every single content that can be accessed through the internet? What will they do about virtual private networks that allow users to access content from other countries? If they insist on it, then taxpayers will be paying MTRCB only to stream movies and shows 24/7, 365 days,” he said.

In such a setup, reliance on self-regulating mechanisms would suffice, Drilon said.

He said the MTRCB is a martial law creation under Presidential Decree 1986 and has been institutionalized as a tool for censorship.

He said the industry has achieved the maturity that PD 1986 sought to instill and can ably self-regulate content.

The MTRCB was created with the expectation outlined in PD 1986 that “through the participation of industry leaders, the industry can eventually self-regulate after it has demonstrated its maturity, self-reliance and dependability,” he said.

Sen. Grace Poe, who used to head the MTRCB, also criticized the plan of the agency.

She said the MTRCB’s main role is classification, and “at some point, it should give way to self-regulation.”

“As it is, there isn’t enough manpower or even resources to view or evaluate every single program on cable. I think it’s counterproductive and ridiculous to suggest regulating Netflix and other streaming services. I am personally against it,” she said. —  Helen Flores, Paolo Romero

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